Celebrate God’s Promises

Advent and Christmas are about Celebration. That view is shared even by people who don’t know that Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Jesus of Nazareth. People are so hungry for joy and peace and hope in their lives and in the world, for themselves, and for others. Something deep inside us longs for these qualities in our lives and in the world, and is drawn to anything that represents them. In the biblical version of the Christmas Story found in Matthew & Luke chapters 1-2, every major character faces some significant challenge or struggle, of which God’s presence and promises are a part. Because God’s promises challenge the ways that our world normally works, and call us toward a new way of being, the promises of God are challenging, and even threatening if we are not ready to open ourselves to them.

In the Acts of the Apostles, Luke lays out how the church comes to understand and proclaim the fulfillment of God’s promises to Israel in and through the life of Jesus. Matthew and Luke both lay out some of these in their stories of Jesus’ birth.

Celebrate God's Promises

Advent and Christmas are about Celebration. That view is shared even by people who don’t know that Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Jesus of Nazareth. People are so hungry for joy and peace and hope in their lives and in the world, for themselves, and for others. Something deep inside us longs for these qualities in our lives and in the world, and is drawn to anything that represents them. In the biblical version of the Christmas Story found in Matthew & Luke chapters 1-2, every major character faces some significant challenge or struggle, of which God’s presence and promises are a part. Because God’s promises challenge the ways that our world normally works, and call us toward a new way of being, the promises of God are challenging, and even threatening if we are not ready to open ourselves to them.

In the Acts of the Apostles, Luke lays out how the church comes to understand and proclaim the fulfillment of God’s promises to Israel in and through the life of Jesus. Matthew and Luke both lay out some of these in their stories of Jesus’ birth.

December Sermons – Celebrate God’s Promises

12/2 – The Faith of Joseph – Matthew 1
12/9 – The Hope of the Magi – Matthew 2
12/16 – The Peace of the Shepherds – Luke 2
12/23 – The Joy of Mary – Luke 1
12/24 – The Love of Christ – John 1 & 3
12/31 – You can be Brand New! – 2 Corinthians 5:16-21

December Sermons – Celebrate God's Promises

12/2 – The Faith of Joseph – Matthew 1
12/9 – The Hope of the Magi – Matthew 2
12/16 – The Peace of the Shepherds – Luke 2
12/23 – The Joy of Mary – Luke 1
12/24 – The Love of Christ – John 1 & 3
12/31 – You can be Brand New! – 2 Corinthians 5:16-21

Be a Disciple – There and Back Again – Spreading the Good News

Acts 13-28

Sermon 11/25

With Chapter 13, Paul’s missionary journies truly begin. He and Barnabas are ordained by the Church in Antioch to go out as missionaries to the Gentiles. It is perhaps significant that Luke takes the time to tell us that this church is multiracial and multi-cultural. And it is also the first place where disciples of Jesus were called ‘Christians’. This ordination to leadership comes through prayer & fasting, discernment, laying on of hands, and more prayer – only then are Paul and Barnabas actually sent out. Their ministry did not begin there – they were qualified for this ministry in part because they had already shown themselves bold and humble servants of Christ, and their ministry had already born fruit for the kingdom. Here also, in ch13, Paul rehearses some of the messiah texts from the old testament – promises made to the messiah himself.
Principle: Being qualified does not automatically lead to ordination for ministry, but it is necessary.

Chapter 14 – From Antioch, out to Iconium, where Paul is nearly killed by stoning – to the brink of death, and yet he returns to Iconium to continue to minister among those who had tried to kill him. Then off to Derbe, and back to Iconium to see that the new believers are grounded, and have elders appointed to lead them, and then Paul returns to Antioch – there and back again.

Chapter 15
The Apostles and Elders clarify what of the old testament law the gentile believers should follow – 28 “For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay no greater burden on you than these requirements: 29 You must abstain from eating food offered to idols, from consuming blood or eating the meat of strangled animals, and from sexual immorality. If you do this, you will do well. Farewell.”
Paul & Barnabas understand their ministry as both to Evangelize and call people to faith, as well as establishing and putting into place church systems that can nurture those new believers, and then return periodically to do check-ups – 35 Paul and Barnabas stayed in Antioch to assist many others who were teaching and preaching the word of the Lord there.
36 After some time Paul said to Barnabas, “Let’s return to each city where we previously preached the word of the Lord, to see how the new believers are getting along.”

& Great friends and colleagues in ministry can have great disagreements that cause them to part ways, but if they remain faithful, this will only go to further the work of the kingdom.

Chapter 16 – Despite the instruction in 15:29 regarding what laws to follow, Paul & Timothy conclude that the ministry will be better served if Timothy is circumcised (no small sacrifice!) for the sake of the Jewish believers in the churches. – This is an example of Paul’s principle of becoming all things to all people – not being under obligation to the law for God, but for the sake of those he would try to win. (1 Cor 9) They made acomodation to the opinions of listeners, and then proceded to lead them toward greater truth – they understood the need to ‘meet people where they are.’
16:10 – the first time Luke says, “…we…” in the narative – indicating perhaps that he, Luke, joined Paul’s ministry team around this time.

Chapter 17 – While in Athens, Paul dialogues with people of various faiths and philosophies. He honors their perspectives while remaining confident in the truth of the Gospel of Jesus. He connects his teaching of the Gospel to the theological position of his listeners, so that they will be able to hear him. He also suggests that God is at work in all cultures and peoples, seeking to reveal himself in ways that will help them to be open to trusting in Christ – 27 “His purpose in all of this was that the nations should seek after God and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him – though he is not far from any one of us. 28 For in him we live and move and exist. As one of your own poets says, ‘We are his offspring.‘ Paul then goes on from this mutual connection to explain the exclusive claim of Christianity – 29 And since this is true, we shouldn’t think of God as an idol designed by craftsmen from gold or silver or stone. 30 God overlooked people’s former ignorance about these things, but now he commands everyone everywhere to turn away from idols and turn to him. 31 For he has set a day for judging the world with justice by the man he has appointed, and he proved to everyone who this is by raising him from the dead.” This piques the interest of the listeners, but he does not try to convince them further by argument, but lets the truth speak for itself, (knowing that it is the Holy Spirit who convicts and converts, not the evangelist or preacher!)

MORE LATER

A Christmas Prayer

Miraculous God of New Beginnings –

  • Grant us the Faith of Joseph, accepting your wise leading even when it is beyond our reasoning.
  • Grant us the passionate imagination of the Magi, who followed an ancient star toward a distant land called Hope.
  • Grant us the grace of shepherds who, though the lowliest of your children, were audience to a heavenly choir singing Glory, Glory, Glory! Peace on earth.
  • And grant that we may know the Joy of Mary as we bear the Love of God to a world in pain.

In the name of the Babe, lying in a manger, who would be the King of Kings, Jesus Christ, your Son and our Savior, Amen.

Praying with Psalms and Proverbs

One great simple way to bring scripture to life in your life is to read through Psalms and Proverbs each month. The Book of Psalms contains 150 individual Psalms, and Proverbs contains 31 chapters. The average month has 30 days. So, read 5 Psalms and a chapter of Proverbs each day. In February, double up a few Psalms. In months with 31 days, you get an extra day to go back and read whatever Psalms really spoke to you in the preceding weeks. When I miss a day (or a few), I don’t try to catch up – they’ll come back around next month, after all. And the point isn’t so much to read straight through them, as it is to bring the scriptures into this day I am now in.
On November 1, read Psalms 1-5, and Proverbs 1. Nov 2 – Psalms 6-10 and Proverbs 2, and so on. This is a habit that you can carry with you throughout your life, can teach easily to others, can adjust as your life requires, and you will find more often than not that every day you read, one of the readings will speak directly to something in your life circumstance.
Praise the LORD, maker of heaven and earth!